United Kingdom government figures released on Sunday showed that more migrants had crossed the English Channel from mainland Europe in 2022 than in any previous year.
Britain’s Conservative government has faced increasing criticism over its failure to reduce stop illegal smuggling gangs from carrying out the crossings.
Massive jump in 2022
The total number of recorded migrants crossing in 2022 was 45,756. This is over 17,000 people more than during 2021.
The past year also saw the largest number of people making small-boat journeys across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in a single day, with 1,295 making it across on August 22.
For many, the dangerous crossings have proved fatal. Four people died last month when a small boat packed with migrants capsized in freezing temperatures, just over a year after at least 27 people drowned when their dinghy capsized.
Promises to end trafficking
While the Conservative government has pledged that it will bring smuggling operations to an end, it has had no success in doing so.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he will press ahead with an existing policy to fly migrants who arrive by boat in the UK to Rwanda where they would be processed for asylum to stay in the African country.
Former Prime Minister Johnson and his short-lived successor Liz Truss had both backed the Rwanda plan. They insist it would break the business model for traffickers by deterring people from making the crossing.
A last-minute injunction in June from the European Court of Human Rights blocked the first such flight, which would have carried only a small number of asylum seekers.
Although London’s High Court recently declared that such a practice would be lawful in principle, no such flights have taken place yet.
Britain’s interior minister, Suella Braverman, has said the government’s aim is to proceed with the deportation policy “as soon as possible.”
The opposition Labour Party has slammed the plan as “unworkable, unethical and extremely expensive” with the UK already having paid Rwanda a hefty initial sum despite the plans having stalled.
The UK in November agreed to pay France €72.2 million ($74.5 million) to fund patrols along the French coast to prevent migrants from crossing the English Channel in small boats.
Migration has often dominated Britain’s political discourse, and the issue was leaned upon heavily by the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union ahead of the 2016 referendum that led to Brexit.
The topic is likely to feature heavily in the campaign for the next general election, expected to take place in 2024.
Source : DW